Sunday, September 2, 2012

Preservation or Gentrification for Egipto?

A commercial street in Egipto. 
It could, undoubtedly, be some of the most valuable real estate in Bogotá: Centuries-old houses, a sweeping view of the city and downtown, and a prize location beside La Candelaria and government offices.

Egipto's centuries-old Church. 
Instead, today, Egipto, the neighborhood above La Candelaria, is a poor area with a serious crime problem. Yet, with all of the neighborhood's troubles, many of Egipto's residents fear that development would take away the little they do have.
The view of downtown.

Hillside homes in Egipto. 
El Tiempo reports that two investors, including the owner of La Candelaria's La Forja ironwork gallery, had purchased some two dozen houses in Egipto with the intention of building a neighborhood of artisans with architecture modeled after a midieval European community. I had heard about this project, and a friend of mine was employed as caretaker for one of the purchased houses, a centuries-old colonial-style home with a sweeping view of Bogotá. But the story I heard was that the investors planned to create an upscale hotel-resort in the neighborhood.

Whatever their vision, El Tiempo reports that the plan has died, because of legal obstacles, corruption, internal disputes, opposition from residents, or a combination of all of those. While homeowners stood to earn big by selling their properties, other residents understandably feared losing their homes being driven from their community.

To their credit, the investors restored several old houses overlooking the fruit market and built a handsome traditional metalworking shop there. But the other two-dozen houses they purchased sit vacant, according to El Tiempo.

A carpentry shop in Egipto. The alley beside it is
notorious for drug dealing. 
There's no question that Egipto has lots of potential. Many of its homes, altho rundown, have great historical and architectural value. The handsome Iglesia de Egipto has sections dating back to the early 1600s, I'm told. And then there are the tremendous views of the city, Monserrate and Bogotá's Eastern Hills. The neighborhood also has a rich and complex history, dating back almost to the beginning of the city. I was told that one of the hillside neighborhoods began as an idealistic initiative of the ELN guerrillas.

Egipto's traditional fruit market,
el Mercado de Rumichaca.
But it's a far-from-ideal place to live today. My friend the caretaker, a single mother of two young girls, sometimes came home to find gangs shooting it out in the alley in front of her home. I once visited her and surprised two young men preparing crack in the alley. She stuck it out until someone climbed over her back wall and burglarized her home. Now, that beautiful house is either vacant and crumbling or demolished.

A young man who lives in Egipto tells me that residents sometimes cannot venture off the streets they live on for fear of being murdered by rival gangs.

Two old men sit drinking on a sidewalk. 
The dozens of houses bought by the investors and vacated by their previous owners have been invaded by rats, according to El Tiempo. I suspect that even less desireable residents have moved in.

So, life in Egipto leaves a lot to be desired, and the potential is there to bring investment and jobs. But, how to do that while also benefiting the existing residents?

Related Posts:

Egipto's Three Kings Celebration

A Visit to Egipto
The Forja people built a demonstration workshop,
whose tower overlooks the fruit market. 

A view of Egipto, Monserrate and a rainbow.

Egipto's brick homes crawl up the hillside. 

A house, probably built illegaly, overhanging the river. 

An informally-built shack say 'Love.'

Egipto's vegetation-choked river. The water reeks of sewage. 

A street in Egipto. 

By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours


mauricio forero l said...

Let me tell you Mike, some of these shots are among the best I have seen from you, really awesome photos. There has to be a way of save or restore this neighborhood, it is really something, I love the view and the proximity to the mountains.
Again love your photos Miguel.

M. F.

Carlito said...

Well same thing happening in La Perseverancia, which is smaller. I think people could benefit a great deal not by selling their property but by forming a real state company where they could benefit from rents and better land values. Unfortunatelly, those same people lack the financial knowledge to profit from their own land and I don't see much change in the future.

Miguel said...

Thanks Mauricio. I got lucky with the rainbow.


Miguel said...

Thanks Mauricio. I got lucky with the rainbow.


Miguel said...

Hi Carlito,

Everywhere, unsophisticated people have lost out to those who know how to play, and game, the system.

It'd be great if the residents could join together and renew their own neighbrhood, but I just don't see it happening. And the existing situation is far from ideal for them.

What's happening in La Perseverancia?



Carlito said...

La Perseverancia (La Perse) is a very small neighborhood between La Macarena and Parque Nacional, so basically is a poor neihborhood surrounded by estrato 5 buildings. It has all the ingredients for gentrification and its residents are normally aware of people buying houses there (damn! I would buy if I could)

Miguel said...

'La Perse' of course has a great history - it was built by Leo Kopp for the employees of the Bavaria brewery, and back then was a model neighborhood. It's fallen on hard times and has a bad rep for crime, but is known for brewing great chicha.